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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

how not to treat customers, madonna-style

From this story, spotted on Drudge:
MADONNA snapped at an audience member at her gig in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday (28MAY06) when she spotted he wasn't dancing. The singer took her Confessions tour to the gambling capital at the weekend after three dates in Los Angeles. Midway through the concert, she singled out a man in the front row, who wasn't getting into the groove and yelled, “If you are only going to sit there, at least you can smile," reports The Scoop.
Of course he wasn't smiling; he was probably sitting there thinking "I can't believe I paid $375 to see this overrated washed-up has-been."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

charley reese gets philosophical this piece entitled "Not Feeling Guilty", posted on LRC today.
I don't feel guilty about slavery. I don't feel guilty about the fate of Native Americans. In fact, I don't feel guilty about anything that happened prior to the date of my birth.

I never owned a slave or desired to, nor did I ever shoot an Indian and steal his land. I say this because there are a lot of special-interest groups trying to lay guilt trips on Americans of European ancestry. That is nothing more than a con game. All we inherit from our ancestors are genes.

The past happened as it happened, and there is nothing we can do about it. The Persian poet Omar Khayyam had it right when he said, "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it."

People who never owned slaves who apologize to people who were never slaves only succeed in making public fools of themselves. Our ancestors don't give half a cow pie what we think of them. People who were never slaves and want people who never owned slaves to pay them money are just trying to pull off a con job. Good luck if they can find somebody stupid enough to fall for it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

sherman skolnick, r.i.p.

I just noticed that Sherman Skolnick, Chicago citizen activist who's investigative work brought down two judges on the Illinois Supreme Court in 1969, passed away 3 days ago. The Tribune published this obituary.

In the mid to late 90's I used to tape Skolnick's public broadcast television program called "Broadsides", and send them to Brian Redman of Conspiracy Nation who would transcribe them and make them available on the Internet. This was long before Skolnick had a web presence (see

I'm sure at least half of Skolnicks information was complete bullshit, but I believe there was enough truth in his reports to keep certain members of the media and political classes on their toes. He claimed to have a lot of contacts, which was probably true; distinguishing the truth and the lies they fed him was the hard part. I certainly disagreed with many of his beliefs about the Vatican and the Catholic Church being involved in all sorts of conspiracies (which is not to deny the actual corruption which occured in the Vatican Bank involving Paul Marcinkus and other characters, which he liked to talk about).

A couple of years ago, when I was working for Libertarian Party Illinois Senatorial candidate Jerry Kohn's campaign, I called Skolnick up to see if he would like to have Kohn on Broadsides. He said he would have but that they had just stopped doing the show.

Thick glasses, buck teeth, somewhat contentious but wildly enthusiastic about whatever he was talking about, he was truly one of a kind. Rest in peace, sir.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

television for toddlers

I've considered posting about this topic before; with this interesting article from today's NYT, I have the perfect opportunity. Television is mostly crap, but when the pediatric establishment mindlessly declares "no television for children under two years of age" and parents are supposed to accept this bit of wisdom unquestioningly, I get pissed off.
WASHINGTON, May 24 — Sure, Sharae Sharp knows pediatricians say children under 2 should not watch TV. But the advice feels less than practical when she needs to scrub the bathroom floor or has a migraine and is craving an hour of silence.

"Sometimes you just need some time," said Ms. Sharp, 29, unapologetic about the 13-inch television she placed in her 3-year-old-daughter Taelor-Shanel's room more than a year ago.

Jennifer Beck-Wilson, 36, tends to agree with the Academy of Pediatrics. But with a 3-year-old son, a 15-month-old daughter and a full-time job, best intentions fall by the wayside. "There's my philosophy and then there's real life," she said.

The two are hardly alone. A new study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in which both participated, found that despite increasing debate over the potentially harmful effects of television on young children, many parents believe that the benefits of a little tube time — whether for their children's development or their own sanity — outweigh the risk of raising a generation of crib potatoes...

...Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said savvy pitches for products like BabyFirst TV and the Baby Einstein line of educational videos and DVD's have convinced parents that fixation on television is educational for young children, even though little research has been devoted television's effect on infants and toddlers.

"The notion of sustained attention for many parents is a point of pride," he said. "Parents absolutely believe the marketing lines for these products, when the fact is that there is no real evidence yet of learning benefits."
OK, fine...but where's the evidence that it harms the child? Hmmm? Why shouldn't the burden of proof be on you so-called "experts" who constantly whine on about how nobody under the age of two should ever be allowed to watch television and anyone who allows their child to do so is a bad, bad parent?

These "experts" never seem to have anything negative to say about older children watching all the stupid sitcoms on television with moronic plots and endless sexual references; that doesn't bother them. But God forbid should you allow your infant or toddler to watch some animal puppets with Mozart playing in the background!

We've allowed our kids to watch all the Baby Einstein videos, and no, it won't turn them into Einsteins, but if nothing else, the classical music they absorb won't do them any harm. We also allow our two and a half year old daughter to watch certain shows like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Kipper. She's definitely picked up some vocabulary from them.

I think part of the problem is that these "experts" can't distinguish between medium and content. What's the harm of educational materials being presented on a television screen? Books, music, toys, arts and crafts, and yes, even television can simulatneously entertain and educate a child, as long as you pick the right ones.

True, kids shouldn't be allowed to develop the habit of vacantly staring into a TV screen for hours on end, but no TV before the age of two? Gimme a break.

One more thing - I've noticed that DVR technology can really help us limit our kids' television exposure to the shows we want them to watch. We can record two new episodes of Dora a day (our toddler's current favorite), which keeps her happy. No more turning on the television before the show starts and leaving it on after it's over, mindlessly watching whatever else is surrounding the program of interest; you just watch what you want to watch. That goes for adults too, of course. Rather than encouraging more TV watching, the DVR simply encourages more intelligent TV watching (not to mention that you can zip through the ads so easily).

Friday, May 19, 2006

a foreign policy of fools

That's the title of this piece by Doug Bandow, his first of hopefully many columns to come at It's long but worth reading; I'll just quote the conclusion.
Washington waves its sword at Iran. Officials mull putting troops in Sudan. The U.S. mumbles threats against North Korea. Ambiguous warnings are made to China over Taiwan. The military constructs permanent bases in Iraq while administration officials promise eventual withdrawal. The vice president tells Russia how to run its affairs. Washington orders Mexico's president to block his administration's own legislation to decriminalize drugs. American officials seek to organize Latin American states against the pathetic crackpot Hugo Chavez. Washington fusses over the results of the latest Ukrainian elections. Nowhere in the world does a hair go unnumbered by an American policymaker nor a sparrow fall without a lecture from an American official.

This is a foreign policy of fools. It is expensive and dangerous. And it will continue until the American people displace the American elite in making foreign policy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

frank tibolt quote

One of yesterday's Quotes of the Day from The Quotations Page is this inspiring one by Frank Tibolt:
We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
Just one question: Who's Frank Tibolt!? I can't find any information on him; he's not in Wikipedia, and Google just brings up a bunch of links to his quotes. I did find one out-of-print book written by him on, with no information about it or him.

ebay scores a point against the patent trolls

Screw you, MercExchange! The Supremes have taken a small step against IP tyranny; see this Forbes article. Spotted via Slashdot. Excerpt:
The U.S. Supreme Court has tipped the balance in patent disputes ever so slightly toward the users of patented technology and away from inventors, owners of intellectual property and the hated "patent trolls"--companies that make money by suing for infringement of patents they own but don't use.

In a victory for eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ), the justices ruled unanimously that federal courts must weigh several factors before barring a patent infringer from using a contested technology or business method.

The online auction house had petitioned the Supreme Court to review the practice of automatically issuing a permanent injunction whenever a patent was found valid and infringed, arguing that the rigid standard was not grounded in the law.

At stake for eBay was the viability of the popular, fixed-price "Buy It Now" section of its Web site. MercExchange, a tiny Virginia-based patent-holding company, won millions of dollars in damages when it successfully sued eBay for violating one of its patents related to the fixed-price auction feature.

Now the case will be sent back to the U.S. District Court where eBay originally won the right to continue operating "Buy It Now" while it designs around the patent it infringed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

kurzweil's keynote

Ray Kurzweil recently gave a key-note speech at the 2006 Bio IT World Life Sciences Conference. This article about the talk from the May issue of Bio IT World magazine is a month old, but I just noticed it because I just received the hard-copy in the mail.
“We are the species that goes beyond its limitations. We didn’t stay on the ground. We didn’t stay on the planet. We didn’t stay within the limitations of our biology. I believe within 10 or 15 years, we will add more than a year every year to he remaining years of life expectancy, so as you go forward your remaining life expectancy will move away from you, so just hang in there another 10 or 15 years,” he said.
With all the crap we keep hearing from human-hating greenies, it's refreshing to hear from somebody like Kurzweil who points out our species' superiority and likely coming achievements.

the dollar is a floozy...but gold can say "no"

I was on vacation last week, having a great time in Florida. It was a family get together, and A.W. View was able to hook up with us as well. However, I had no access to the internet for five whole days!! Even though I was busy and having fun every moment, there was always that awareness that I was missing out on the websites and blogs I check daily. For example, I only just now noticed this piece by Bill Bonner, posted on LRC a few days ago.
The dollar has been too easy with her favors. And now, her best years are behind her. Her last beau, Alan Greenspan, took a lot out of her – reducing her street value by half. And yesterday, the end of the rate increases signaled the beginning of a new and tawdry chapter in the life of the floozy currency...

..."She brought it on herself," say insensitive investors. "She threw herself at every man who walked down the street, you know, practically giving herself away to anyone who asked. She just didn't know how to say "no." What do you expect?"

Meanwhile, gold hit a quarter-century high, with June contracts selling for $705 an ounce.

The yellow metal, buyers noticed, is everything the dollar is not. While the dollar could never say "no," gold says nothing else: No to debt. No to new spending schemes. No to improving the world. No to re-electing scoundrels. No to bubbles. No to foreign wars. No to trade deficits. No, no, no, no, no.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

delusional conservatives

This is a little old, but Human Events polled some conservative thinkers on what the ten most harmful government programs were. Surprize, surprize, the idiotic war in Iraq did not make the cut. What hideous, grotesqueries of Leviathan made it on to the list? Contraceptive funding, of course! Naturally it made it all the way to No. 5.

I'm as opposed to federal funding of anything as anyone might be, but the right-wing obsession with sex is nuts.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

would jesus silence his critics through the courts?

I don't think so.

From this Reuters story:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code", a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception."

Arinze's appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.

"Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget," Arinze said in the documentary made by Rome film maker Mario Biasetti for Rome Reports, a Catholic film agency specializing in religious affairs.

"Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others," Arinze said.
As a humble, practicing Catholic, I think you got it all wrong, Cardinal. (OK, I'm not that humble.)

When some Muslims went crazy last year over those offensive political cartoons, resorting to violence and murder, it was easy to criticize them and useful to point out that Catholics, constantly under attack in our modern culture via film, television, and literature, do not respond to such attacks with violence. Instead, we respond with argument and education, knowing that truth will prevail in the end. Centuries ago, the Church was indeed guilty of using violence and murder to silence dissenters; fortunately, we've long since advanced beyond that mindset, recognizing and individual's right to his own opinion, however wrong we believe it to be.

Granted, Cardinal Arinze is not calling for the murder of Dan Brown or the cast and crew of the forthcoming movie, but by attempting to use the courts to prevent others from exercising their rights to free speech, he is advocating a form of violence through the State.

I haven't read The Da Vinci Code, and I probably won't, though I may rent the movie when it comes out on DVD. From what I know about the story, I probably would agree with the Vatican on its offensiveness to Catholicism, but I would encourage responding with boycotts and gentle persuasion using pens, keyboards, radio waves and podcasts, rather than responding with violence using courts, lawyers, governments and guns. I believe the Vatican generally shares this view, notwithstanding the views of Cardinal Arinze.

Thank God that Arinze wasn't selected to be the JPII's successor.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

bye bye, mr. goss!

First of all, let me state for the record: I love poker myself, and there is nothing inherently wrong with gambling. All games of chance should be legal provided they don't violate another's rights. As for prostitution, I believe that it is inherently wrong, but that it should nonetheless be legal between consenting adults. The sole purpose of the law is to protect the rights of others. The government is not a moral authority, and it should not pass laws designed to make people "behave better".

Having said that...ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! Porter is in trouble, Porter is in trouble! It's quite gratifying to see people in positions of power who have made and/or enforced all kinds of stupid laws and stolen their salaries at gunpoint from the afoul of the law. As a congressman, Goss was a sponsor of the tyrannical USA PATRIOT Act.

I never much cared for Goss, if you couldn't guess that already. I remember after Hurricane Charley, when residents of Florida's Sanibel and Captiva islands were blocked from returning to their homes for a week or two by armed federal guards posted at the islands' bridges and ports, Mr. Goss made an aerial survey of the islands via helicopter. You see, Goss has a home on Sanibel, and he's special, so he not only gets to go home, but he gets to fly over everybody else's home, unlike the other residents. I saw him interviewed from the helicopter (while it was on the ground), and man, I have to say he really came off as an arrogant SOB.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

lords of dogtown

First of all, I'm sorry for the lack of new posts, but there's been lots of craziness going on over here!

My wife just left for a 4 day business trip to Europe, so it's me and my mother-in-law holding things together right now (Man, I'd be in trouble without her here). It's the first time Mommy's been away since before our first daughter was born, so this is a new experience for all of us.

Amazingly, we got both girls to sleep on time. I'm especially worried, though, about what will happen at 2 AM when our 10 month old wakes up expecting to roll over and clamp onto Mommy's nipple. Although she eats a lot of solid food, she still breastfeeds for her liquid nourishment and she normally co-sleeps with us (tonight she's in the crib, though). Although much-maligned by the pediatric establishment, we've found co-sleeping to be quite practical when you have a breast-feeding baby. It's great bonding, and everybody gets a good night's sleep. The drawback is, of course, if Mommy leaves town for a few days...Daddy's doomed!

Posting will therefore probably remain light for a while. My coblogger A.W. has all but abandoned the Leviathan Slayer ship, so it's just me these days. All right, on with the review!

I recently watched the "Lords of Dogtown" movie on DVD (the "Unleashed" version, which I'm guessing has more sex, drugs and foul language than the theatrical release did). It was directed by production designer-turned-director Catherine Hardwicke.

Not a great movie, but if you're at all interested in the skateboarding revival of the early-to-mid 70s you will probably enjoy it. It's a dramatized version of the true tale of some surfer kids from Venice, California (basically a slum by the beach) who invented the modern, "vertical" style of skateboarding, largely developed while skating in empty swimming pools (empty because of drought-like conditions in CA and the consequent water-usage restrictions). The kids would sneak into people's pools when the owners were away, and develop their craft.

I really enjoy watching skateboarding, and these actors did a decent job of it. The acting itself wasn't all that great, with the exception of Heath Ledger who was pretty good as the surf shop owner Skip Engblom who put the team together. I think the main reason I liked this movie at all is the nostalgia factor. I had a skateboard in my preteen and early teen years, right around the time period this movie is set. I never knew anything about the Z-boys but it's interesting now to see how it all came about.

These kids were no angels, and their lack of respect for property rights and lack of morals in general (some characters much worse than others, like the punk hoodlum Jay Adams, played by Emile Hirsch) was somewhat of a turnoff. Their screwed-up parents, as portrayed in the movie, at least, were certainly no role models so I have to cut the kids some slack there.

I was intrigued enough by this film to want to check out the "Dogtown and Z-Boys" documentary that was made a few years earlier by one of the skaters, Stacey Peralta. (who also wrote the screenplay for Lords of Dogtown). I'll try to post a review of that one if I ever get around to seeing it.